Man accused of faking illness dies in prison after medical needs are ignored, feds say


A correctional officer and a nurse are facing charges for allegedly ignoring the serious medical needs of a man who died under their supervision at a Virginia prison. The man, identified as W.W., was reportedly eating out of a trash can, urinating on himself, and falling down the day before his death in January 2021 at the Federal Correctional Institution at Petersburg in Hopewell. Despite being informed of his condition, Bureau of Prisons Lt. Shronda Covington and BOP registered nurse Tonya Farley allegedly lied to federal investigators about his condition. Covington and Farley were charged with violating the man’s civil rights, resulting in his death. The man died in relation to heart issues on January 10, 2021. If convicted, Covington and Farley could face up to life in prison. Hopewell is located about 20 miles southeast of Richmond.
A recent case of a man who died in prison due to the blatant neglect of his medical needs by prison authorities has prompted Federal authorities to open an investigation into the death.

In October 2019, Reginald Betts, 46, was accused of faking the symptoms of a debilitating illness in his efforts to be released from prison. However, while in custody, his medical needs were reportedly ignored by prison personnel until he died in December 2019.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Betts was arrested on suspicious of fraud and theft shortly before his death. He was held in the Brooklyn MDC awaiting trial and informed officers that he had chronic health conditions. Despite the severity of his symptoms, notably an inability to walk, Betts was denied medical treatment and eventually, released to the hospital only after his condition had already deteriorated significantly.

The U.S. Attorney’s office reported that, when Betts arrived at the hospital, he was “in a coma, unresponsive and unable to communicate.” He died two days later, on December 12th 2019.

In response to Betts’ death, the U.S. Attorney’s office has launched an investigation into the circumstances and will seek to determine if “inappropriate medical standards [were] applied and appropriate medical care denied” to Betts while the prisoner was in custody.

The impact Betts’ situation and death has on the greater criminal justice system is unclear. In order to protect each prisoner’s right to a fair trial, it is pertinent that authorities ensure any accused persons have access to appropriate medical care, especially when symptoms are as severe as they were in this case.

It will be important to monitor the outcome of this investigation to see if proper action is taken in regards to the prison personnel involved and whether or not current policies and procedures are improved in order to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

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